So Messi and his mates have left us heartbroken. At least Team Naija can still claim the ‘fashion world cup’, thanks to the instant sellout Nigerian football kit. Pure Super Eagles swag.
We’d also dominate in a foodie fight. Much as I love
Argentinian steak other cuisines, when it comes to filling my plate (and belly), Nigeria is the undisputed champion. From suya spots to jollof rice festivals, Nigerian food in London is on the rise. Today, I’d like to introduce you to new West London joint, Pitanga.
Pitanga: Nostalgic Nigerian Food
You’ll find it on North End Road, a short stroll from West Kensington, Earl’s Court or Baron’s Court tube stations. Pitanga is the result of many years of dreaming, planning and hard slog by gifted chef Nky Iweka, aka Executive Mama Put.
For the sake of disclosure, I have to let you know that Nky is also my cousin, so I can’t help but big her up. However, her 5 star ratings so far on Google and the buzz she’s built on social media, should convince you this is not just a family affair. Pitanga is the real deal.
So what will you find at this restaurant? A simple yet inspired selection of breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes (no supper yet, although guests are clamouring for it).
We visited with my brother Obi for the launch of ‘Suya Sunday’ at Pitanga.
Suya is the epitome of Naija street food. It’s a traditional Nigerian/West African BBQ meat, marinated in yaji (a mix of peanut, garlic, ginger, clove and other spices). In Nigeria, you can buy your suya to eat on skewers, or wrapped in old newspaper, hugged by slices of red onion. I love suya so much that I recently flew to Hache Burgers, to try out Zoe Adjonyoh’s Suya Burger.
Munching on suya takes me back to being a kid in Enugu, sitting on a back step, chewing on the pepperiest, most delicious meat I’d ever tasted. Even though my lips were rings of fire, I couldn’t get enough.
At Pitanga, Nky serves up chunky cuts of suya (lamb, beef or chicken) with a side of jollof rice, yam or potato chips, plus plantain and green salad. Abiye ordered a lamb chop with potato chips, while the boys and I went for beef suya with rice.
Once our dishes arrived, the babes didn’t throw me a second glance. I can’t blame them, as everything was finger-gnawingly tasty.
So Fresh & So Clean
One thing you’ll notice about Nky’s cooking is that it tastes light and clean, unlike some Nigerian chefs that are heavy-handed with the oil and flavour cubes. She uses fresh, authentic ingredients to create that moreish sensation. The tagline of Pitanga is ‘Nostalgic Nigerian Food’ and if you’re Naija – born or raised – you will certainly feel at home. Even a touch homesick.
For non-Nigerians, Pitanga offers a yummy intro to some of our staples, beautifully presented, served by warm and cheerful staff. The setting is bright and welcoming, with high ceilings, bold splashes of colour, and striking wall art.
From the minute you walk in, you can see the chef and her assistants busy at work in the open kitchen.
To the back, there’s a garden area with cosy seats, a perfect little sun trap.
On Suya Sunday, customers lounged in the garden, while kids noshed on Nigerian beans and Agege bread (see below). We also enjoyed live music from Nicci Marbles.
Hot Picks at Pitanga
- The Full African – bacon, sausage, Agege bread, fried plantain, Nigerian scrambled eggs (with onions, tomatoes and bell pepper) and Nigerian honey beans. You can also order a Full English.
- Akara – Nigerian bean fritters made with Black-eyed peas, onions and chillies, also popular in Brazil where it’s known as ‘acaraje’.
- Ageggy Toast – French toast made with Agege (local Nigerian) bread, topped with a berry coulis.
I’m taking the boys back for a consolation meal very soon. One bite of any of the above and we’ll be all like — Messi what? Messi who?
Pitanga is at 220 North End Road, London, W14 9NX. Open for breakfast from 8am (Tue-Sun). Lunch (soft opening) until 3pm (Tue-Fri) or 5pm (Sat-Sun). Suya Sunday (select dates) on 2pm-6pm.